Wonders of Belize
Although Belize is a small country, there are located numerous outstanding and surprising wonders. The country has at least four important features making it very special regarding the natural and cultural heritage:
- The area of Belize was a part of the realm of one of the greatest ancient civilizations – Maya;
- Most of the country consists of carbonate rock and in tropical climate here are on-going active karst processes – country contains a wealth of very diverse caves and sinkholes;
- Approximately 60% of the country is covered with more or less virgin tropical forest, containing a huge number of rare and endemic species;
- Some of the largest coral reefs are lining the coastline of Belize.
Part of the wonders are popular tourism destinations but part is known only to specialists. New exciting landmarks are discovered every year. Thus in 2009 there was discovered Tipan Chen Uitz – potentially one of the largest Maya sites in the country but in 2008 at the bottom of two sinkholes – groves of unknown species of cycad with extreme healing properties – later named Zamia decumbens.
Map with the described wonders of Belize
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Top 21 wonders of Belize
A perfectly round undersea sinkhole, 318 meters across and 124 meters deep. Contains tilted stalactites possibly hinting at tectonic movements.
Barton Creek Cave
Approximately 7 km long cave with giant passages, navigable river, adorned with dripstone formations and natural bridges. In the past served as a Maya religious center.
Giant Cave at Caye Caulker
This undersea cave has been visited by cave divers only a few times and each of the teams returned with different data. One investigation shows that passages of this cave have a total length of 3,116 m, thus making it the longest known seawater-filled cave. Another exploration shows that this cave is a 600 m wide cave chamber – contender to be the largest cave chamber in the world.
Chiquibul Cave System
Group of giant caves, one of the longest cave systems in Central America. Earlier served also as an underground bed for the Chiquibul River. Contains some of the largest known cave passages (often 100 m wide and 50 m high) and rooms (Belize Chamber – 200 m wide and tall) in the Western Hemisphere, with countless dripstone formations. The total length of hydrologically linked explored passages – 97 km. The four largest caves are – Actun Kabal, Actun Tun Kul, Cebada Cave, and Xibalba. Contains Mayan artifacts.
Caves Branch Caves
Group of caves. It consists of three-four segments with Caves Branch River flowing through them. Part of the cave system has been turned into a tourism destination, giving altered names to some segments of caves. Best known are Footprints Cave (with embedded footprints), Waterfall Cave (with six waterfalls in it), and Petroglyph Cave (with ancient Maya drawings from 300 – 900 AD.). An impressive sight is the disappearance of the Caves Branch river underground.
Hidden Valley Falls
More than 450 meters high waterfall. In the upper reaches of the waterfall, there is a unique growth of fir, while down below there is a tropical jungle.
Chiquibul Natural Arch
Chiquibul River passes this arch before diving into the Chiquibul Cave system.
Albion Island Quarry
Orange Walk District
This is the only site where is well visible the impact of the Chicxulub meteorite. It, most likely, caused the great extinction 65 million years ago. Among other exciting features here is found a layer of small spheres – condensate of evaporated limestone that fell from the sky back in those terrible times.
Zamia decumbens in sinkholes
Zamia decumbens is an extremely rare cycad, up to 2 m tall. It is found in seven places in Belize with just a few plants found in most locations. The best groves consisting of several hundreds of plants are located on the bottoms of two fairly large, isolated sinkholes with approximately 50 meters tall vertical cliffs. The plant has huge potential importance in medicine as it has powerful antiviral properties – but it has been impossible to cultivate it thus far.
Actun Tunichil Muknal
Important Maya sacrifice cave with skeletons of sacrificed victims. Includes the famous "Crystal Maiden" – a crystallized, sparkling skeleton of a girl and dripstone formations modified by Maya to resemble human faces and animals.
An important Mayan city of the Classical era, 200 – 900 AD. Contains numerous buildings, the best known is the 40 m tall El Castillo pyramid. Also site of legends: even the present name of this site stems from deterrent ghost – white-dressed women with red glowing eyes seen at El Castillo.
The most important Mayan center in the area of present-day Belize. Inhabited since 1200 BC, flourished in 485 – 889 AD. In its heyday covered an area of 168 km². Contains the highest pyramid in Belize – Caana, some 45 m tall.
Remnants of a comparatively important Mayan city, developed in 200 – 900 AD. Nowadays there are seen remnants of a group of pyramids and some other monuments.
This important ancient Mayan city flourished in 730 – 890 AD. The architectural style is different from other Mayan cities, in the site were found numerous miniature ceramic figurines – possible ritual objects. Here reportedly was found also the famous Crystal Skull – a beloved artifact of mystics and seekers of preternatural things of the past.
Coastal Maya city, an ancient harbor at the bay of Chetumal. Contains several plazas with pyramids.
Orange Walk District
Once an important, very ancient Mayan city, inhabited since the 16th century BC and flourished in the 4th century BC – 1st century AD. Occupied until the 17th century AD. The most imposing structure is the 23 m tall High Temple.
Tipan Chen Uitz
Fairly recently discovered (June 2009) remnants of a large Maya city. Contains a group of diverse monuments including caves, large well, large buildings, and fortifications.
Chechem Ha Cave
This cave contains 60 vessels of intact Maya pottery, mainly funeral pots (ollas), from around 200 BC – 900 AD.
Rather important ancient Maya site. Occupied since 1000 BC, flourished in 400 BC – 250 AD and 600 – 900 AD. Area – 30 ha, contains some 24 pyramids up to 16.5 m high, raised causeways, palaces, and numerous other monuments.
Significant ancient Mayan city with remnants of hundreds of buildings. Construction was ongoing here from 800 BC to 1000 AD.
Swing Bridge in Belize
The only manually operated swing bridge in the world still in function. Constructed in Liverpool and transported here in 1923, spans the Belize River.
Uncover the very best of Belize with this fully updated guidebook. Rough Guides’ expert authors traveled the length and breadth of Belize while researching this guide: seeking out the best guesthouses, exploring ancient Maya ruins, and trekking through knotted mangroves. Written with our trademark blend of humor, insight, and practical advice, The Rough Guide to Belize contains information on all the best places to eat, drink, and shop in Belize, with price options ranging from backpacker budget to luxury.
Belize might just have the greatest variety of flora and fauna of any country of its size in the world. Offshore the Belize Barrier Reef, a great wall of coral, stretches the entire 200-mile-length of the coast. And archaeologists have identified more than 600 significant Mayan sites in Belize. Fodor’s guide gives you all the information you need to plan the perfect trip, whether you want a scuba adventure, a getaway to a secluded jungle lodge, or barefoot luxury in a peaceful beach town.